Demons Of The Past 02: Revolution – Chapter 14
I took a deep breath, realizing that we were once more moving forward to the unknown. “Thanks to you, Hargan, Boduras, Chondu – and all the rest of the Thov Hok Shu. All of your people, really, even the ones who don’t know what’s going on.”
Hargan and the others bowed to us, and I was touched to see that they were quite seriously giving to me and the rest of our little crew the Six-And-One – even though to them that was hardly an important symbol. “And to you we return thanks, Sasham Varan,” Hargan said. “I ask you, however, if you truly understand: on what course are we all now bound?”
I looked down, then up, but didn’t really see what I was looking at; I knew the answer, I’d even mentioned it before, but I also knew that this was really the first time that I had to face it as a fact, as something which really was going to happen and that I, personally, was going to be responsible for. Finally I closed my eyes, then opened them again to look straight into Hargan’s own. “I… we, and now with Thovia as our first true ally… we’re going to have to … to move against the Empire.”
Even those words evade the truth. Vick’s mindvoice was not quite as cold as usual; that tiny courtesy, a consideration from a species I knew was perhaps even more dangerous than I had believed before, in some way made it harder, simply because his support made me believe that it was really going to happen. Guvthor said nothing, and neither did The Eönwyl, though I could see sympathy in those pure-blue eyes.
“Sinking hell.” I knew they were right. I had to commit in words, in honest, straightforward words. “I am going to have to lead a revolt in, or a direct war against, the Empire.” The words were like melted lead, heavy and hot and poisonous. “Shagrath’s too close to the top and this has been going on too long. Even if Taelin and Lukhas have a clue what’s going on… Shagrath’s almost certainly taken at least some of the Five Families’ learning the truth into account. He’s got to have control over the Emperor. The Empire isn’t going to stop, it’s going to get worse, and I’ll have to raise every force I can find to weaken it, to hold it back, at least until we can figure out something that can actually stop Shagrath – and until we know what he and his allies are, we can’t be sure how that can be done.
“So… So we all have to prepare for war. Prepare for it now because the Empire will be bringing it to us all soon. And no matter how much I hate the idea, they’re using me as a bogeyman – and I’m going to be the best rallying point for the Empire’s enemies, if we can play it right.”
Hargan Hok Hargan nodded. “That is indeed the truth of our course. It is war, now. But, we firmly believe, it is also a just war, at last, against the enemy that Thovia has sensed and feared since the Fall of Atlantaea. Many innocents will die, Sasham Varan, and I hope you know we feel this as keenly as do you. But uncounted more have died before, and will die, if we do not stop them. So do not let your feelings for your people stop you or divert you from this course.”
“I won’t. The only way to possibly save any of them is to finish this.”
“The Thov Hok Shu hears you, and through you the World hears you, and Daramanda’s Wisdom blesses you. We pledge ourselves to your cause, to your war, for it is also our war, and the war for those of the whole Galaxy who fell before this same enemy.”
I was suddenly filled with a much brighter sense of hope. A few billion was nothing compared to the might of the Empire… but, yet, it was a vastly greater force than anything I had ever commanded, and these were people with secrets even Shagrath did not know – allies whose strength might be – no, had to be – vastly out of proportion to their numbers.
“Now that the formalities are done,” the Eönwyl said after a moment, “we need to get moving. If we assume Shagrath had any spies on your world at all, the alarm must have gone up the moment Guvthor’s avalanche wiped them out. There won’t be very many ships of the Empire out this far, but there will be some, and if any one of them has one of his mind-controlling allies on board, they’ll be here soon.”
“True, true,” Guvthor said, and began shoving the last of his transport cases up the ramp of The Eönwyl – which had been mysteriously transported to the hidden city and placed in this cargo and launch bay probably at the same time we’d been dragged halfway around the world. “So we must try to go to Thann’ta, have our meeting, not get killed by whatever ‘Testing’ our friend Sooovickalassa’s people might choose to impose upon us, learn what they have to tell, and return here swiftly – hopefully with useful information that will give us a better idea of our next move, and, even more hopefully, with new allies.”
THAT will greatly depend on how well you impress the Masters of the Light, Vick said. Which in turn requires that we get there!
I laughed. “Listen to you. You’re so nervous and excited you sound like one of our kids waiting for his Empire-day presents on the Eve of Empire.”
Vick’s mental retort was more a sort of offended psionic splutter of outrage which – unfortunately – just reinforced our impressions.
“But he’s right, we’ll have to get there,” the Eönwyl said, trying to keep the smile off her face. “And I’ll have a new cargo to trade.”
Boduras shook his head dolefully. “You have chosen a peculiar, not to say almost nonsensical, selection of things for your travels.”
I advised her on the conditions of my world, Vick pointed out. What conclusions she has drawn from those conditions are of course her business.
I also wasn’t sure exactly what had driven the Eönwyl’s selection of cargo – a large amount of select woods being transported to a world which, according to Vick, already had a lot of forest; various metals; quick-frozen meats; hand-forged weaponry in sizes more suited for beings our size – but I reminded myself that she’d been doing this for years and made a lot of money at it, so I had to assume she knew what she was doing.
I began my ascent up the ramp, then paused as a thought struck me. “What about Lieutenant Mansteros and the others?”
“I have thought much about that,” Hargan Hok Hargan said slowly. “I believe I shall tell them your story, Captain Sasham Varan.”
I winced. Tell Imperials that I’m psionic? “Why?”
“They are in a perfect position to recognize that there is something terribly wrong with the official story,” she answered simply. “They have seen your behavior, your actions, have spoken with you, formed an impression of their own which will reflect well upon any other information they gain. And your own government will undoubtedly send them their version of the story. Better, then, that we decide which one they hear first, yes?”
I couldn’t argue with that… and thinking about it, if they did come to believe that the official version was wrong, I’d have a few more real Imperial officers and enlisted who would be useful in recruiting from the Empire. If I wanted to save my own country, I was going to need people from that same country to help minimize the damage and convince the rest of the Empire that we were, in fact, saving them rather than damning them. “Yes, I guess you’re right. Just… try to keep them safe. If the Empire decides they can’t know too much…”
“You have our word.”
That was good enough for me; Hargan’s prior points about the distance of the core of Empire, and the formidable nature of both the Thovians themselves and the secrets they held, made for an excellent defense.
With one more set of farewells, we boarded The Eönwyl and the ramp closed behind us. Somehow, it felt almost like coming home, and I could see a smile on its owner’s face. “Everyone get to your positions. Takeoff in five minutes. After that, our next stop is Thann’ta!”